SAP Hires New CTO, Forms Office for the Position

SAP AG has appointed a new chief technology officer. The company announced May 30 it has promoted Vishal Sikka to head its newly formed Office of the CTO.

Sikka is the former senior vice president of architecture and chief software architect at SAP. In his new role, Sikka is chartered with leading the company’s technology and architecture strategy across its product portfolio—a job that sounds strikingly like the position held by Shai Agassi, former president of the product and technology group at SAP, who resigned April 1.

Agassi, considered a wunderkind in both business and techie circles for his in-depth knowledge of technology coupled with a meteoric rise through the executive ranks at SAP, was responsible for SAP’s technology roadmap and strategy.

In his new role Sikka is likewise responsible for leading SAP’s technology and architecture strategy across its product portfolio, but with some differences.

“Shai was the head of development for all products and that has been spread across several executives,” said Sikka, in Palo Alto, Calif. “My role is the overall roadmap and technical direction of products, so in that sense I will share Shai’s [responsibilities].”

In the wake of Agassi’s departure, SAP announced the formation of an Executive Council, comprised of the company’s corporate officers, which are responsible for both customer-facing and product strategies.

Executives leading the development will report to Henning Kagermann, CEO of SAP. The Executive Council consists of Doug Merritt, who will lead the development of software for the business user; Klaus Kreplin, who will continue to lead SAP NetWeaver technology; Jim Hagemann Snabe, who will lead development of the SAP Business Suite and industry solutions; Michael Kleinemeier, who will drive collaboration and lead industry business unit priorities; and Bob Stutz, who will continue to lead the CRM (customer relationship management) team.

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In a statement, SAP said Sikka is responsible for ensuring a “clear and harmonized road map for SAP products,” a distinction that makes sense given SAP’s recent executive shuffles.

“The overall technical direction of the company was something that we did not have a single label for,” said Sikka. “That was something our board decided we needed—one group to help harmonize and provide more leadership across.”

The company’s strategy, however, will remain unchanged, according to Sikka.

“We have a very compelling vision that we have outlined that is at the forefront of what the next generation of business is all about. There is no reason to change,” said Sikka.

“It accounts for all major disruptions, so we don’t see any need to change. In particular the fundamental issue of bringing innovation that is consumable and not disruptive, that customers expect from our business process platform. The development of a stable core is something we have nailed down.”

In Sept. 2006, SAP announced that it would stabilize its next generation ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite, mySAP ERP 2005, for the next five years. Any upgrades to the suite now come in the form of enhancement packages that customers can either choose to implement, or not.

While the stable core message has been well received by customers, there is still a wild card waiting in the wings—SAP’s A1S suite currently in development that is rumored to be both on demand and appliance based. While the suite is being geared toward the mid-market, some analysts believe A1S is the long-term replacement for R/3, the predecessor to mySAP ERP.

Sikka said Peter Zencke, SAP executive board member, will continue to be responsible for A1S. Sikka’s role will be to continue to hone the company’s product roadmap and research direction.

“In next generations of SAP’s open, flexible architecture, customers will gain further cutting-edge technologies enabling them to transform their business networks and maximize relationships across borders with partners, suppliers and distributors,” said Kagermann, in a statement.

“By establishing the Office of the CTO under Vishal’s leadership, we are furthering our commitment to drive innovation at SAP and to help customers increase competitive advantage and accelerate innovation in their own business.”

Before joining SAP, Sikka was the area vice president for platform technologies at Peregrine Systems, a company that fell in disrepair in 2002 amid massive accounting improprieties. It was finally acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2005. Sikka joined Peregrine after it acquired Bodha, a company Sikka founded to develop technology for service-based application integration and semantic information integration.

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